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Giving Mother Nature A Little Push

Had enough of Old Man Winter? You can hurry Mother Nature along. Gardening Contributor Georgia Raimondi of The Saturday Early Show has advice on how to grow grass indoors, and how to "force" blossoms from cut branches of spring flowering shrubs and trees.

You can also bring a bit of luck and balmy exotic ambience to your home by growing bamboo. And by combining flowering plants and exotic fish, you can add a special touch of nature's beauty.

The best candidates for forcing branches are:

  • azaleas
  • pussy willows
  • forsythia
  • dogwood
  • apple blossoms
  • cherry blossoms
Pussy willows bud the earliest and are easiest to force. Choose branches that have the largest number of plump buds; these are usually located at the top of the shrub.

Cut the branches to the length you want, using a slant cut, and then plunge them into cold water. Keep them in a cool place for a couple of days, and then place them in a sunny location and watch for the flowers to appear in one to three weeks.

Remove the pussy willows from the water and let them dry as soon as the catkins develop -- that is, unless you want them to develop leaves and roots as well, which would allow you to plant them outside.

HOW TO FORCE OTHER BRANCH BLOSSOMS
  • Select the youngest branches with the largest flower buds.
  • Use a pair of sharp pruning shears to make a slanted cut just above a bud.
  • Branches can be any length, from six inches to six feet or longer, but two to four feet is usually a good size for inside the house.
  • To ensure that cut branches absorb as much water as possible, make a two-inch vertical cut in the stem end of the branch. You can also split the end by hammering it gently. (Be careful to avoid crushing the stem; that would accelerate decay.)
  • Fill a tall container with room temperature water and place the cut branches in it.
  • Add a floral preservative and place the container in a cool spot.
  • When the buds begin to show color and are ready to open, place the container in a bright spot indoors but out of direct sunlight.
  • Every week, change the water and cut an inch off the bottom of each stem.
  • Mist the branches as least once a day.
  • Buds will burst forth in approximately from ten days to two weeks
HOW TO GROW GRASS INDOORS
  • Use fast-growing grass seed like turf rye wheat berry.
  • Select a container that has a drainage hole in the bottom; place a piece of shard on the bottom of the container and fill with sterile potting soil.
  • Sprinkle a generous amount of gras seed. Be sure to cover the entire top of the soil.
  • Do not cover the rye seed with soil. Do cover the wheat grass seed with a fine layer of soil.
  • Using a mister, spritz the seeds thoroughly with room-temperature water. Do not use a watering can because the force of the water will disturb the seeds.
  • Cover the container with a plastic bag and place in a bright spot. Even a clear "hotel-like" shower cap will do just fine. (The plastic creates a mini-greenhouse environment to provide moisture).
  • When the grass starts to sprout, remove from the plastic bag. Seeds will start to germinate in a week.
  • Keep well watered. When your lawn gets too long, clip with a scissors.
LUCKY BAMBOO, Or Chinese Forcing Cane
  • Chinese New Year was Jan. 24. Grow your bamboo in odd numbers to bring good luck.
  • Although it can look striking, bamboo is an undemanding plant. It requires nothing more than weekly fresh water to flourish for several years.
  • Place decorative stones on bottom of vase. Bamboo stalks grow just in water, not soil, and will sprout beautiful foliage.
  • Grows easily in all kinds of lighting, including low and indirect light.
  • It does not need fertilizer.
  • Canes grow slowly, but can be purchased from one to three feet tall.
  • Bamboo is available at garden centers and mail order through www.SmithandHawken.com. They range in price from $4 to $20 per stem, depending on size and type.
FISH GARDEN
  • Fill a large glass vase with spring water.
  • Place brightly colored marbles at bottom.
  • Place a colorful blue/green/purple Siamese fish (Beta) into the vase.
  • Place an additional glass insert into top of vase. Place a Peace Lily plant into this top. The roots will just grow in water, and the Peace Lily can grow in low light.
  • Change the water every two weeks with room-temperature spring water. Do not use tap water; it contains chlorine.
  • Feed the fish with Beta Bites according to directions on package.
  • Do not place in direct sunlight or near heat.
  • Do not fertilize the plant.

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